The more words autistic children hear as infants — and the more verbal interactions they have with their caregivers — the better their language skills at age 2, a new study suggests.
The quantity of speech young children hear in the home is known to have a strong influence on language development and in turn, on reading skills and ‘school readiness’.
The new study is the first to look at this association in autistic children under 1 year old. Its findings suggest that coaching parents who have one autistic child to talk to their later babies could be beneficial, says lead investigator Meghan Swanson.
Swanson’s team gave families of 96 babies a wearable audio recorder called LENA (Language Environment Analysis).
The families used the device to record their conversation with the babies and the vocalizations the babies made over two days at ages 9 months and 15 months. The researchers then tested the children’s language skills at 24 months.
The more words a baby hears and more conversational turns she has, the higher her language scores at age 2, the researchers found. This finding applies to both typical children and those with autism.
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